Tag Archives: George Leventhal

George Leventhal on Hogan’s Road Plan

I had the chance to speak with George Leventhal about Gov. Hogan’s road proposal. He explained that the proposal was a complete surprise to local officials because just days earlier Hogan’s Department of Transportation had presented their proposal to spend $100 million to improve mobility on I-270.

As for Hogan’s new proposal, created without any consultation with Montgomery officials, George said “It isn’t possible to be for it or against it because we don’t really know what it is.” In particular, he he emphasized the lack of any information on whether the proposal would include the American Legion Bridge.

The following is by Councilmember George Leventhal (D-At Large):

We need a lot more information about Governor Hogan’s announcement yesterday, but I am glad to see him paying attention to Montgomery County’s traffic congestion problems. I have been calling for expanded capacity on I-270 and the American Legion Bridge for a long time, and until yesterday, the governor had offered only a good, but insufficient, proposal for I-270, to improve technology and signalization, totaling $100 million. It will be interesting to learn how his new proposal is to be integrated with that earlier proposal.

The County Council has called for two additional reversible lanes on I-270, and it will be worth discussing with the state whether that would be sufficient, and obviate the need for four new lanes. Also, I would like to see a dedicated transitway as part of any plan for I-270 and the American Legion Bridge.

When it comes to I-495 east of the I-270 spur, I don’t understand how lanes could be added without significant adverse consequences to homes, businesses, watersheds, and Rock Creek, Sligo Creek and Northwest Branch Parks.

The governor’s attention to our transportation problems is welcome, but it would have been nice to see closer consultation with local officials before the announcement was made. Fortunately, it’s just a broad outline at this point and I hope that he and his team will now work with local government to figure out the details.

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First Time Ever: Elrich Reaches Financial Parity with Leventhal

 By Adam Pagnucco.

Many things have happened over the last four election cycles, but one thing has remained constant: George Leventhal has smoked Marc Elrich in fundraising.

Not anymore.

Elrich, who is running against Leventhal, Roger Berliner and Bill Frick to be the next County Executive, just filed his first application for public financing matching funds with the state.  So far, Elrich has more in-county contributors than Leventhal (693 to 590) and has raised more money from in-county individuals ($59,717 vs $46,128).  But Leventhal has received more public funds, leaving him with a slight lead in total fundraising.  Summary data for all qualifying publicly financed candidates appears below.

This is a dramatic turn of events from the past.  Leventhal and Elrich first ran against each other in 2002 as members of slates headed by County Executive Doug Duncan and Council Member Blair Ewing respectively.  Leventhal outraised Elrich by more than 5-1 that year and was backed by hundreds of thousands of dollars more in slate money from the real estate industry.  Over the next three cycles, Leventhal raised about twice as much as Elrich.

But public financing has eroded Leventhal’s edge.  That was predictable considering that both Leventhal and Elrich have had around 600 in-county individual contributors each in both the 2010 and 2014 cycles.  The ability of a candidate to raise money in the public financing system depends solely on the number of in-county contributors he or she has.  So if two candidates have similarly sized individual donor bases, they will raise similar amounts of money.

That fact is not lost on the Leventhal campaign, which sent out the fundraising email below shortly after seeing Elrich’s report.

Leventhal is right to be concerned about Elrich’s financial success.  Leventhal finished fourth and Elrich finished first in the last two at-large council elections despite the fact that Leventhal outraised Elrich 2-1.  What happens now when the two are at financial parity?

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Updated: Preliminary Fundraising Totals in Public Campaign Financing, September 2017

By Adam Pagnucco.

This morning, we posted preliminary fundraising totals for candidates in public financing.  But one of those reports was wrong because of a problem with the State Board of Elections’ processing software.  This post contains updated information.

Shortly after our original post, we received the following communication from Council At-Large candidate Hoan Dang’s campaign.

Hi Adam, this is Jonathon Rowland, campaign manager for Hoan Dang.  Thank you for the article this morning.  I just want to correct the amount stated.  When we filed with the Board of Elections, our report was duplicated because of a glitch in the system giving us double the amount of donations.  We have been in contact with the Board of Elections since Monday to resolve this issue.  The actual amount of donations is 316.

When your author called Rowland for more details, he said that the Dang campaign found the error first and asked the board to correct it.  Board staff acknowledged the mistake and said that they were working with their IT developer to fix it going forward.  No public funds were ever distributed before the Dang campaign caught the mistake.

Including information provided by Dang’s campaign today, here is the updated comparison of the five campaigns who have applied for public financing.

Dang is not the leader in public financing.  George Leventhal, who is running for Executive, is the overall leader in qualifying contributors and receipts.  (Executive candidates get higher match rates than council candidates.)  Among the council candidates, incumbent Hans Riemer leads in qualifying contributors and Bill Conway leads in matching funds.  This should not discount a strong performance by Dang, whose financial numbers are not terribly different from Riemer’s.

Going forward, we hope the state prevents the kinds of mistakes that affected Dang’s campaign.  In the initial glitchy filing, Dang supposedly requested $148,328 in public matching funds.  (Again, the IT glitch was not Dang’s fault.)  In the updated filing, Dang requested $74,144 in public matching funds.  That’s a $74,184 difference.  If Dang had not caught the mistake, could that difference have conceivably been paid out?  There’s no evidence available on that point.  But for the good of public confidence in the county’s public financing system, we hope such a mistake never happens.

On a different issue, we asked what happened to Council Member Marc Elrich’s filing for public matching funds in our original post.  Elrich said he had enough contributors to qualify back in June but has not filed yet.  When asked about it on Leventhal surrogate Saqib Ali’s Facebook page, Elrich said his delay in filing was related to a payment his campaign had made to the county party, which was subsequently ruled to not be in compliance with public financing requirements.  We reprint Elrich’s statement below.

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Preliminary Fundraising Totals in Public Campaign Financing, September 2017

By Adam Pagnucco.

Correction: The numbers for Hoan Dang in this post are inaccurate.  For updated numbers on Dang and a response by Marc Elrich, please visit our updated post.

One of the virtues of public campaign financing is the rapid release of financial reports for participating candidates.  That’s right, folks – for this group of candidates, there is no need to wait until January to see fundraising numbers.  That’s because when they qualify for public matching funds and request them from the state, their financial reports are released almost immediately.  This is terrific for all data junkies like your author as well as inquiring minds among the readers!

Below is a summary for the five candidates who have applied to receive matching funds from the state.  Bear in mind the following characteristics of the data.  First, the number of qualifying contributors means the number of contributors who live in Montgomery County.  Non-residents can contribute up to $150 each but the state will not authorize matching funds for them.  Second, the individual contribution amounts are the basis on which the state determines how much in public matching funds will be released.  Third, the date of cash balance is important because it varies depending on when the applications were sent in.  That is unlike the regular reporting dates on which financial positions are summarized at the same time for all candidates.  And fourth, for those candidates who have only filed once (which includes everyone except George Leventhal), the cash balances do not include public funds from the state.  To estimate the cash positions of those candidates, the cash balance should be added to the public matching funds they requested.

What do we make of this?

1.  Let’s start with the obvious: there are a lot of small checks out there!  While many contributors are probably donating to more than one of these five campaigns, it’s not a stretch to say that close to a thousand people will have contributed by some point in the near future.  It’s hard to make comparisons with the past without exquisitely detailed research to back it up (anyone want to pay us for that?) but our hunch is that this is a larger early donor pool than in prior cycles.

2.  The big story here is Council At-Large candidate Hoan Dang.  At-Large Council Members George Leventhal (who is running for Executive) and Hans Riemer (the only incumbent running for reelection) have a combined 22 years of representing the whole county.  But Dang had more in-county contributors than either one of them!  How does that happen?  Dang ran for Delegate in District 19 in 2010.  He was financially competitive, raising $103,418, but he finished fifth out of six candidates.  There was no reason going into this race to believe that Dang would receive more grassroots financial support than Leventhal or Riemer.  But so far, he has.

3.  Dang is not the only story.  Look at first-time candidate Bill Conway, who collected more private funds than Riemer primarily by having a larger average contribution.  In most elections, challengers struggle to be financially competitive with incumbents.  But the early performances of Conway and Dang relative to Riemer suggest that, at least among publicly-financed candidates, some or all of that gap may be closed.  Our hunch is that a group of at-large candidates will all hit the public matching funds cap of $250,000 and therefore have similar budgets heading into mail season.  The big question will then become how those totals compare to what candidates in the traditional system, like Marilyn Balcombe, Charlie Barkley, Ashwani Jain and Cherri Branson, will raise.

4.  Where is Marc Elrich?  The three-term at-large Council Member and Executive candidate announced that he had qualified for matching funds back in June at roughly the same time that Leventhal and Riemer said the same.  Riemer followed up by filing for matching funds and Leventhal did it twice.  Why hasn’t Elrich filed more than two months after his announcement?  One suspects that the bewildering paperwork requirements of public financing are responsible for the delay, but political types are starting to chatter about it.

That’s all for now.  Candidates, keep those reports coming in so your favorite blog has more material for the readers!

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Evaluating the Candidates for County Executive: George Leventhal

Today, I conclude my series on the current major declared Democratic candidates for county executive with a discussion of George Leventhal’s candidacy. Previous posts took looks at Marc Elrich and Roger Berliner.

Introducing George Leventhal

Like Nancy Floreen, George won election initially on Doug Duncan’s “End Gridlock” slate. Since then, he has won reelection three more times and is now completing sixteen years on the County Council, including two terms as its chair. In his last reelection, George came in fourth among the candidates for at-large seats in the Democratic primary, winning 20% fewer votes than leader Marc Elrich. George is unquestionably passionate about his positions and unafraid of arguing for them forcefully.

His proudest accomplishment is seeing the Purple Line to fruition but, like most significant political acts, this is a victory with many parents. Since it’s a done deal and all the candidates favored the Purple Line, it’s difficult to campaign on the question. One cannot differentiate when voters cannot perceive a difference.

Who is the Leventhal Voter?

In previous profiles, I’ve outlined the core constituency for the candidate. George Leventhal’s central problem is that his core constituency remains hard to identify even after four terms on the Council. He’s been on too many sides of too many different issues to have a natural base. Previously, he opposed a minimum wage increase but now he’s for it. While he was elected on a road-building platform, he now says that he was not elected to build roads. He is pro-immigrant yet lost CASA’s endorsement in the last election.

This leaves George adrift in County politics. Unions don’t trust him because of his past position on the minimum wage and his complete willingness to vilify them when he opposed them on such issues as breaking contracts during the recession and his correct decision, endorsed by the voters, to overturn the overly restrictive bargaining practices with the police union.

Business doesn’t trust him for the same reason. George has been a strong supporter of development, but he now dismisses opponents of the minimum wage increase. George would argue that he evolved and learned on these issues and only a fool never changes his mind. He’s certainly right about that but heaven and earth have changed places a few times too often to attract any of the County’s natural core constituencies.

George has also alienated many in the western half of the County through his repeated denigration of their interests and concerns on any number of issues. George knows he has a problem here. At the at-large Council debate held in Chevy Chase four years ago, George  attempted to prove this inaccurate by reading a thank-you note from a constituent. He got hot under the collar when the audience was visibly unimpressed.

Personality

Supporters would describe George as passionate and pugnacious. George is unquestionably extremely passionate but too many of the people active in politics he now needs as validators for him as a candidate see him as a rude bully. George’s view is that your gentle blogger invented this notion and that his strong convictions excuse any occasional excesses. Unfortunately for George, many others have identified the problem, including the Washington Post, and George’s temper toward colleagues and constituents alike is well known.

George has now learned at an intellectual level what he needs to say and do. He does his best to smile more and to talk about how he wants to bring people together and respect those who disagree. I wish him well in these efforts–we all have room for growth and self-improvement. The problem is that he’s just not there yet and his reputation is well-established after so many years.

Conclusion

Being unable to identify your voter is like a firm being unable to identify its client base. Your business is in trouble. Sixteen years on the Council, including two terms as Council president, also make it difficult to present yourself as the new kid on the block and argue that you’re a force for reform and change. Accordingly, I see George as a second-tier candidate, though the votes he gains may nevertheless sway the race one way or another.

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Leventhal Blames Term Limits on “Right Wing Populism”

By Adam Pagnucco.

In a post on Senator Cheryl Kagan’s Facebook page, Council Member George Leventhal has blamed the voters’ passage of term limits on “right wing populism.”  Yes folks, you read that correctly!

On Sunday, Senator Kagan posted an innocuous account of the number of reusable bags she has accumulated in the wake of the county’s use of a bag tax.  (Your author and many others can relate!)  Her post had nothing to do with term limits and she even stated her support of the bag tax.  Nevertheless, Leventhal replied within ten minutes.  “Constituents have told me the bag tax was a primary reason term limits passed. I support the bag tax too, but I’m just letting you know that you walk a thin line when you associate with right wing populism by identifying yourself with term limits.”

First, Kagan did nothing to identify herself with term limits or with right wing populism of any kind.  No reasonable person would make those leaps of illogic by reading her post.  Second, while Robin Ficker and Help Save Maryland may have gathered signatures for the term limits charter amendment, 70% of the county’s voters (and a majority of Democrats) voted for term limits.  Third, at the same time that “right wing populism” was apparently sweeping the county, those same voters supported Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by 75%-19%.  The alleged right wingers also voted for Chris Van Hollen and Jamie Raskin by more than 50 points each.

Large majorities of every part of the county except Takoma Park voted for term limits.  Is right wing populism running wild in MoCo?

Part of what is going on here may be a reaction to Kagan’s consideration of a run for County Executive, an office which Leventhal is seeking.  Potential rivals are right to fear Kagan.  She is an outstanding candidate who is a veteran of two recent hard-fought Senate races and has many fans inside and outside of her district.  She is also plenty tough, having sent out mail against her 2014 opponent showing him “gallivanting around as a Republican elephant masquerading in a Democrat donkey mask.”  She is unlikely to be intimidated by unfriendly statements on Facebook.

There are many reasons for the passage of term limits: the giant tax hike of 2016, declining local media coverage, falling voter turnout, unhappiness with nanny state laws and, in some areas, dissatisfaction with recent master plans.  These factors and more combined to produce the biggest political revolt in MoCo in fifty years.  But there is no evidence that right wing populism played a decisive role here.  Leventhal’s remarks are reminiscent of his equating term limits supporters with Brexit voters and his branding of the entire effort as “dumb and unnecessary.”  His views do not appear to have changed.

Disclosures: Your author is a big fan of Kagan, has done campaign work for Roger Berliner in the past and publicly supports Berliner for Executive.

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Does George Leventhal have the Temperament to be County Executive?

I had planned to continue my Playing Trump’s Game series today but apparently 7S became the subject of controversy on WAMU. Tom Sherwood raised the issue of George Leventhal’s temperament on WAMU’s The Politics Hour last Friday. Councilmember George Leventhal (D-AL) reacted by blaming Seventh State:

Um, you know I gotta say that I think the issue of the Purple Line is a very important issue. There is at least one blogger who has written about an encounter with the unions who is very much opposed to the Purple Line. We don’t have a lot of local journalism. I’m grateful to the Politics Hour, so people rely on bloggers who may have an ax to grind. I think people have written things about me who disagree with me on issues who then try to characterize me in a way that makes me seem an undesirable candidate. And I think with that gentleman in particular, it’s really that we just disagree on the merits of the Purple Line.

Yep, George Leventhal and I disagreed about the Purple Line. Indeed, I disagreed with the entire county council, almost all of our state legislative delegation, and many good friends on this issue. None of these other people have claimed that I have an ax to grind against them. This a red herring–a classic effort to distract.

Debate on policy questions is normal in a diverse, democratic society. My friend and co-blogger, Adam Pagnucco, disagrees with me on a bunch of issues. Seventh State has had blog posts that directly argue against my own point of view, including on the Purple Line compact and a Planning Board appointment. I even did a blog post giving George Leventhal’s point of view on the issue he mentioned in his WAMU comments with no rebuttal.

Councilmember Leventhal’s problem is not his issue positions, which differ little from his colleagues on many issues, or even that he frequently butts heads with his colleagues or media critics. It’s that he targets his own constituents and people who work for the County.

Clips from Council meetings show this plainly:

Berating Office of Management and Budget Director Jennifer Hughes from the dais at a Council hearing.

Attacking constituents as tools of lobbyists (with responses by Nancy Navarro and Craig Rice).

Unfortunately, this is not rare and Councilmember Leventhal developed a widespread reputation as a result long before I wrote about it. He takes the same approach on social media and in meetings as he does from the Council dais, comparing term limits supporters to Brexit voters, and likening DLC opponents to whiners at Starbucks. This hostility is why he performed less well than other incumbents in the last two at-large county Democratic primaries despite his long tenure in office.

In the same WAMU interview, Councilmember Leventhal went on to excuse any bad behavior with:

I’m motivated to make a difference for people who most need government on their side.

In other words, George cares so much that it’s okay that he behaves atrociously. There is a difference between standing firm for what you believe and bullying people.

Other politicians manage to have an impact without acting this way. Councilmember Leventhal says he knows that “I need to be a good listener” and “I respect the fact that people will not always agree with me.” But he regularly communicates hostility instead of the idea that reasonable people of goodwill may hold different opinions on issues. It’s not a one off or a bad day.

George Leventhal has trolled David Trone, a potential candidate for county executive, by comparing him to Donald Trump. Ironically, his own efforts to delegitimize media critics and belittle constituents who disagree are the hallmarks of the Trump Administration.

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Translating George Leventhal

Our county needs new leadership.

Please ignore that I was elected to the first of four terms on the County Council in 2002, and served twice as Council President.

We need an executive who plays a hands-on role . . .

I don’t like Ike Leggett.

. . . in addressing the challenges that we face [traffic, school overcrowding, and affordable housing] and who also understands that the challenges that we face are connected to our success.

Please forget that these same problems existed when I joined the Council 15 years ago. Their continuation is due to the amazing job that I’ve done addressing them.

We have a lot of traffic and we need to address that.

Please ignore that I was elected as part of the End Gridlock slate in 2002. (In 2002, End Gridlock flyers declared “our citizens are drowning in traffic” and promised “bold action now.”)

We do need to meet each of these challenges and I’ve worked on all of them for fifteen years as a councilmember and I think I have a good understanding of the leadership that’s necessary to take us into the next decade.

Please ignore what I just said. Our county needs experienced leadership.

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Leventhal Qualifies for Public Financing

Council Member George Leventhal, who is running for County Executive, has announced that he has qualified for matching funds in the county’s public financing program.  Following is his press release.

*****

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, June 27, 2017

George Leventhal First to Announce He Has Achieved Initial Fundraising Target Under County’s Public Campaign Finance Law

Montgomery County Councilmember George Leventhal (D-At Large), a candidate for Montgomery County Executive, announced today that his campaign has collected more than 500 contributions from Montgomery County residents, totaling more than $40,000. Once the contributions have been certified by the Maryland State Board of Elections, Leventhal’s campaign will be eligible for more than $180,000 from the Public Campaign Fund.

“The support of hundreds of my constituents means so much to me, and I am humbled and grateful,” Leventhal said. “I am an enthusiastic participant in the Clean Money program that the County Council enacted in 2013. Our constituents want to know that elected officials are accountable to them, not subject to the influence of big money. The Clean Money program maximizes the power of small contributions from individual donors.”

Under the public campaign finance law, a candidate for County Executive qualifies for matching funds after receiving at least 500 contributions totaling at least $40,000 from county residents. Contributions are matched under the following schedule: first $50 is matched 6×1; second $50 is matched 4×1; third $50 is matched 2×1. This results in a $50 donation becoming $350, a $100 donation becoming $600 and a $150 donation becoming $750. Candidates for County Council may also participate in the program and are eligible for smaller amounts of matching funds.

Candidates who voluntarily participate in the program must limit contributions to no more than $150 per individual and may not accept contributions from PACs, corporations or labor unions.

The first date on which contributions may be submitted to the Maryland State Board of Elections for a determination of eligibility for matching funds is July 4, 2017.

“As your next County Executive, I will provide government that works for you and provides results,” Leventhal added. “In keeping with the accountability and transparency that will characterize my work, I will release the names of all contributors as soon as they are certified by the Maryland State Board of Elections.”

Leventhal officially announced his candidacy for County Executive at a kickoff in Wheaton Regional Park on Saturday, June 24, but he has been raising qualifying contributions since October, 2016.

First elected to the County Council in November, 2002, Leventhal was re-elected in 2006, 2010 and 2014. His colleagues elected him twice as Council President, in 2006 and 2015. He has served since 2002 as chairman of the council’s Health and Human Services Committee.

###

Contact:

Jessica Moore, Campaign Director

George Leventhal for Montgomery County

301-580-4517

Jessica@GeorgeLeventhal.com

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George Leventhal Validates Doug Duncan Criticism in Real Time

Yesterday, Maryland Matters published an interview with former Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan sizing up the candidates for county executive that included the following comment on Councilmember George Leventhal:

Hours later the same day:

This is not the first time that George attempted to delegitimize his opponents rather than to engage substantively on the policy issue. George could have reiterated policy arguments for the Purple Line, discussed the damage in the delay of decision, or disputed the legal reasoning.

Instead, he took a shot at the participation of people standing up for their viewpoint as to what is best for their community. This line of attack is particularly odd since the other side is supported by the weight of the State, the County, the FTA, and the wealthy development community. Regardless, it is unusual to see a politician bemoan their constituents’ participation in the process.

Not for George. Consider the Council debate in 2013 about the rezoning of a property in Aspen Hill to accommodate Walmart. After ritualistically claiming to value their participation, he denigrates them as rubes manipulated by the property owner, saying among other things:

I do hope someone will ask who paid for the signs. Who gave them to you?

Who will pay for those signs next? And who will hire the lobbyists to distribute those signs next?

I guess I better print up some signs and hire a lobbyist to get 30 people to sit in an audience and say “What’s the wait!”

Watch for yourself:

In the wake of George Leventhal’s comments, Council Chairwoman Nancy Navarro felt compelled to commend the participation of the people who came up from Aspen Hill. Councilmember Craig Rice made the same point even more forcefully:

I apologize for what you just heard. The assumption that somehow by holding a sign that someone might’ve given you means that you don’t have a voice, that you don’t have your own opinion, that you just happened to just roll down the street sand somebody said “hey, take this sign and come into the County Council Building ’cause you don’t have anything else to do.” It’s disrespectful. [applause]

I guess we need to warn the PTA when they come and they have their pre-printed signs, we need to warn Moving Maryland Forward, or the Purple Line Coalition, or Wheaton Moving Forward. We need to warn everybody not to have pre-printed signs because that automatically means that your voice isn’t your voice, it’s somebody else’s.  Well, I don’t agree, and I think that you being here is enough of a word that says that you care about what happens in your community, and that’s enough for me!

Amen.

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